(recited in my best impersonation of David Pinto) Congratulations to Bobby Cox, Leo Mazzone and the Atlanta Braves on clinching their 14th consecutive NL East title with Tuesday’s 12-3 demolition of the Colorado Rockies.
With the exception of 1996, the Braves have proven in each of those seaons that they are amongst MLB’s 8 best teams, much as their loyal fans have shown Atlanta to be one of the top 3 dozen baseball towns in North America year after year.
Congratulations are also due to Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson and Mrs. Jeff Wilpon. Despite a dismal early September, the New York Mets managed to stave off mathematical elimination from playoff contention until their 157th game of the season.
There’s some furious tidying taking place in the CSTB front lounge in preperation for Wednesday’s Champions League reunion of last year’s semi-finalists, Chelsea and Liverpool. All available peanut shells and crisp wrappers have been arranged in a very neat pile that is less than 30 inches tall — just call me Mrs. Doubtfire (but not to my face, please).
The Guardian’s titter-tastic Fiver rounds up Tuesday’s hot rumors :
A friend of a friend of a friend of Mrs Thierry Henry has unwittingly revealed to The Fiver that the Gooner is a goner. A deal to bring the Frenchman to Barcelona next summer has already been done.
Nuri Sahin last month became the youngest player in Bundesliga history when he turned out for Borussia Dortmund aged 16 years and 335 days. Officials at the German club were today at a loss to explain why it took Chelsea over four weeks to make a multi-million pound offer for the midfielder.
Sir Alex of Ferguson has been entrusted with £10m and told to have another tilt at finding “the new Roy Keane.” He’s got his gimlet eye trained on Saint Etienne’s Didier Zokora, who’s not sure whether to feel flattered or not.
And Laurent Blanc (above), last seen filling in at the Trafford Devildome as a free but inadequate replacement for Jaap Stam (as opposed to the expensive but inadequate Rio Ferdinand), will be named as Monaco manager next Monday.
If you donate $100 to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Brian Wilson will give you a call. He’ll also match your donation.
Not to be outdone, for a mere $19.95, Leon Spinks will call you. No word on whether or not any portion of the $19.95 goes to the Katrina Relief efforts, but let’s not assume the worst.
Following yesterday’s correspondence, Jake Wilson is still exasperated with Deadspin :
First they’re mocking MLBlogs for allowing obscene French-language postings on the site, going as far as yesterday’s exercise in poor taste to try to make their point about the lack of post moderation on there. Today Deadspin is decrying “the ugly hand of censorship” at MLBlogs after noticing that their favorite French blog is missing some key words. I guess it’s too much to ask for any consistency out of Deadspin.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The mensas over at Deadpsin don’t appear to have ever heard of the technological breakthrough known as the “profanity filter” and seem to be under the impression that MLBlogs has a staff of people going through posts and editing out inappropriate terms by hand. No wonder they can’t even figure out how to enable comments on their “blog.”
Well, you don’t see any comments at Gawker or Defamer, do you? It’s a one-way conversation, though you are of course, welcome to supply them with tips (though what they really need is internet access at home).
With the picture-in-picture features of the CSTB HQ incompatible with our satellite system, I’m reduced to the indignity of having to change channels to properly follow the events of Champions League Matchday 2 ;
(ESPN 2) Manchester United 2, Benfica 1
(Setanta US) Ajax 1, Arsenal 2
Unavailable on any US TV set : Thun 1, Sparta F.C. 0
In the slightly less flashy world of the Coca Cola Championship, QPR — joined by new loan acquisition Lloyd Dyer — and Milwall are in the midst of a scoreless draw at the New Den.
Citing Lou Piniella’s prior stint as a Yankee broadcaster in 1989 (and his subsequent criticism of Dallas Green), the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman suggests that current D-Rays skipper might be a likely hire for the YES Network, perhaps as soon as this autumn.
Using history as precedent, it’s obvious that having Piniella on board as a broadcaster would be appealing to Steinbrenner and other Yankee suits who put heat on Joe Torre this season. Unless the Yankees win the World Series the heat will continue. Coming out of this week with a postseason berth will not take any pressure off Torre going into next season.
So, there is one possible answer for anyone who asks (and this question has been asked over and over again), “Would Steinbrenner eat $12.8 million and fire Joe with two years left on his contract?”
With Piniella around, Steinbrenner would not have to. The perception would be that in Piniella, The Boss would have his own shadow manager in the broadcast booth. If Piniella were to work for YES, Steinbrenner would be able to keep him in the wings, ready to return to the dugout if he wanted to make a managerial change.
Steinbrenner would have a watchdog, so to speak. The nature of the job would have Piniella scrutinizing Torre’s every move. And if you don’t think Steinbrenner would be into this, remember, it was The Boss’ lieutenants who fed questions to YES reporters to ask Torre on the postgame show.
There would be no need for that with Piniella on the job. Why pass notes when you have a former Yankee manager, a possible manager in waiting, critiquing the current Bombers manager?
Then again, Piniella might not feel comfortable in that role.
Not to worry, there’s always the new Mets Network.
Perhaps unfamiliar with the concept of buying low and selling high, Mets GM Omar Minaya claims that LF Cliff Floyd, CSTB’s choice for Comeback Player Of The Year Who Didn’t Testify Before A Grand Jury, won’t be shopped around this winter. From Newsday’s David Lennon.
It took almost three years, but Cliff Floyd finally has convinced the Mets he can be more than merely a bargaining chip for Sammy Sosa or Manny Ramirez. When the Mets make another push for Ramirez this offseason, which they plan to do, general manager Omar Minaya insists that Floyd’s name will not be part of those discussions.
Or any other trade talks for that matter. “I think that going into next year, Cliff is a very important part of our team,” Minaya said before last night’s rain-delayed game against the Phillies.
“Everybody knew that Cliff had great potential. The key this season is that Cliff has been able to stay healthy and play every day. He’s stepped it up to a level that he’s never done before, and going into ’06, he’s going to be a big part of our team.” Minaya, like any GM, reserves the right to change his mind, and with six months before Opening Day, he has plenty of time to be tempted. But Floyd has built a pretty strong argument for sticking around, with a career- best 32 home runs and 96 RBIs so far and seven games left to reach the 100-RBI plateau for only the second time in his 12-year career. In his first two seasons, Floyd played a total of 221 games. This year, he has a chance of reaching 150 for the first time since 1998, when Floyd played 153 for the Marlins.
On the flip side, Floyd is heading into the final season of a fouryear, $26-million contract, and has never been more attractive as trade bait. The question Minaya has to ask himself is this: How much better can he do in leftfield? Floyd, hobbled by leg injuries in his first two seasons, has even played superb defense to complement his power numbers. But as far as looking into the future, those are matters out of his control.
I’m all for giving Floyd credit for being the Mets’ 2005 c0-MVP (along with David Wright), but it would be foolish to make too much of Minaya’s statements. The club desperately needs a first baseman, a catcher and a top flight closer next year and it will take more than Steve Trachsel to bring much back in return.
Would the Giants’ 45-23 drubbing at the hands of San Diego turned out differently had WR Plaxico Burress not been disciplined by Mr. Sunshine? Jeremy Shockey thinks so. From the NY Post’s Dan Martin.
“I understand his point, but it’s really not fair,” Shockey said of Coughlin’s decision to bench Burress early. “It affects the whole team.”
Burress scored a touchdown in the second quarter, his second as a Giant. He finished with five catches for 52 yards.
“What can you do,” Shockey asked. “As players, we play. Coaches coach. But you should have your best players on the field. The whole offense suffered from him not being out there.”
“I was late to a couple of meetings,” Burress said. “He decided to sit me on the bench to prove a point, I guess. I tried to brush it off and keep my head in the game. I don’t think it helped us on that first drive. We couldn’t run a couple of plays.”
Burress, a free-agent signee from the Steelers, said he learned of the move just hours before the game when he was reviewing the playbook in his hotel room.
“Sometimes things just happen,” said Burress, who added that he was tardy by Coughlin’s rule that dictates you need to be five minutes early to meetings.
(had Burress turned up early, he’d have been present for an inspirational screening of Coach Coughlin’s favorite film)
Perhaps inspired by the Orioles’ new policy of sending their supertar players home early, Jack McKeon has sent cranky A.J. Burnett packing. The Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer and Barry Jackson report thatthe Florida skipper might not be around much longer, either.
Jack McKeon has decided his future, and most indications are it won’t involve returning as Marlins manager for the 2006 season.
Although McKeon has not yet met with team owner Jeffrey Loria, at least one member of the front office believes McKeon will not return as manager, a league source said.
Already, New York Yankees bench coach Joe Girardi has been mentioned internally as a likely Marlins target to replace McKeon.
McKeon, who guided the Marlins to a World Series title after taking over in May 2003, said he has made up his mind about his future with the club but wanted to wait until the season was over to announce his plans.
”When the proper time comes, I’m going to tell you,” McKeon said.
McKeon’s agreement with the team allows him to remain on the payroll as a consultant next season, assuming he does not return as manager.
The Marlins are one of the several teams expected to pursue Girardi, a former Cubs and Yankees catcher who is considered one of the game’s bright young managerial prospects, according to league sources.
Other candidates who will be available include Lou Piniella (who is leaving Tampa Bay), former Marlins manager Jim Leyland (who wants to return to managing) and ex-Mets skipper Davey Johnson (whose name was linked to the Marlins in a recent report in The Sporting News).
….are undoubtedly “Testaverde To The Rescue”.
And that’s only because “Gang Green In Talks With Jeff George” is seven words.
From the New York Post’s Laura Italiano :
Porcine pornmeister Al Goldstein is off the hook for allegedly stealing $54 worth of colitis-related books from a Barnes & Noble last year.
A Manhattan judge yesterday dismissed shoplifting charges against the former Screw magazine publisher after defense lawyer Charles DeStefano said the books were for Goldstein’s sick wife, that Goldstein himself is not well, and that a trial would become a “circus.”
The last time he was on trial ” in 2002 for harassing his secretary ” the lithium-popping Goldstein came to court in prison stripes, threw a chair at his judge and called zany actor Al “Grandpa” Lewis as a character witness.
Goldstein, 69, suffers from diabetes, sleep apnea and depression, and had turned down a plea deal for 90 days in jail. The down-on-his-luck ex-publisher is currently writing for booble.com.
Let it be noted that I’m already on record as stating Al deserves a permanent Get Out Of Jail card.
From the LA Times’ Steve Henson.
Besides booking postseason vacations, the Dodgers are spending their abundance of idle time working Sudoku puzzles, grids that must be filled so each row and column contains the digits one through nine.
Outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. started the clubhouse craze, and he makes copies and passes them out to everyone from rookies to veterans to coaches.
(it should be stressed that hardly anyone has broken their wrist playing Sudoku)
So exactly what is it about Curt Schilling that generates such contempt from his teammates? Having left few friends behind in Philadelphia and Arizona, an unattributed quote has Schilling wondering about his place in Boston writes the Globe’s Bob Hohler.
Less than a year after Schilling risked his career to help the Red Sox capture their first world championship in 86 years, he is plagued by the guilt and despair of failing to fulfill the expectations of his fans and teammates. It also hurts that at least one teammate has suggested that Schilling has unfairly escaped the public wrath that other Sox players have endured for their disappointing performances.
In his bleakest hour, Schilling indicated, he has imagined a better life after baseball. That moment came after a teammate, whom he declined to identify, complained that Schilling should have received more grief than he has from fans for underachieving. Schilling was stung.
”Somebody on this team wants me to get booed to make them feel better, and that really bothers me a lot,” said Schilling, 38, who hopes to pitch two more years. ”Those are the kinds of things that really make me look at this game and understand that when I’m done in the game, I’ll be done with the game.”
Schilling said he suspected the same teammate gave an anonymous quote to the Herald last week in which he aired a similar gripe. Citing the lack of a public backlash against Schilling for his subpar season — the Sox ace is 7-8 with a 5.89 ERA — the player was quoted as saying, ”When he comes into the game, people cheer him like he’s the Pope? You think they’d let Pedro [Martinez] get away with this? Why does he get a free pass?”
Schilling made no secret of his anger at the criticism, even if it came, as he suggested, from ”somebody who’s not wired right.”
”As much time as we spend together, you think you know someone,” he said. ”But more times than not you find you really don’t.”
Jim Hoffman kindly refers us to the following item from Female First :
Hollywood actor Tom Sizemore is to release a series of his own home-made sex films.
The ‘Saving Private Ryan’ star, who filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, is bringing out several tapes he made with nine different women, some of which have already been leaked on to the internet, to try and raise cash.
Porn industry sources claim the actor could make millions from the illicit recordings due to the massive current interest in celebrity sex tapes. Sizemore is the latest star to feature in a home-made sex tape.
Who, pray tell, are these “porn industry sources” and why didn’t they just say Tom was in line to earn billions?
Then again, if there’s any footage of Sizemore getting it on while wearing the Pete Rose/Beatle wig, this could be quite the cash cow.
(Tom assures Peter Bogdanovich that the “deleted scenes” from “Hustle” are purely for his own entertainment)
Writes Sam Frank,
You probably saw David Leonhardt’s “Underestimating Fielding Is A Silly Mental Error” in Sunday’s NY Times, , but maybe you didn’t catch the thing they snuck in this last paragraph: The A’s have quietly become the best defensive team in the league. The author guesses that that’s where they’re finding inefficiencies/good deals these days. Also interesting is the conversion presented: making 0.1 more outs per game when you’re a fielder is worth 25 points of batting average. Oh, and Willy Taveras is playing as well in the field as Beltran did last year.
“Looking at entire teams may be even more telling. The Athletics were known a few years ago for finding inexpensive players with a knack for hitting home runs and walking, even if they were defensively challenged.
But with more teams also focusing on on-base percentage these days, Oakland’s front office seems to have decided that defense is now the skill undervalued in the baseball marketplace. This season, A’s fielders have made outs out of 72.4 percent of balls hit in play against them, better than any other team.”
Sadly for Oakland, there wasn’t much way of defending against Steve Finley (above) finally getting a big hit for the Angels (other than not throwing him a pitch right down the middle), the ancient CF’s 2 run HR off Joe Blanton in the 4th providing the difference in a 4-3 victory. The A’s now find themselves 5 games back with 6 to play — it would take a collapse of Mauchian proportions for the Angels to blow the AL West.
On the subject of collapses, which would be the more rare occurance ; Trevor Hoffman blowing a save, or Barry Bonds going 0-5? Either way, San Diego’ (77-79) has seen their lead dwindle to 3 games over the Giants, with another 3 games against San Francisco between now and Thursday night.
Though there’s probably no truth to the rumor that the Houston Astros are planning on voting Mike Jacobs (above, right) a partial playoff share, the Eastern League’s Player Of The Year continues to make the most of his call-up, homering off Philly’s Brett Myers and driving in Carlos Beltran on a sacrifice fly in the Mets’ 6-5 comeback win. Gutsiest move of the night goes to Willie Randolph, who rather than allowing Roberto Hernandez to pitch to Bobby Abreu, intentionally walked the Phils’ right-fielder, putting the tying and winning runs on base. Willie instead chose to have Hernandez go after Met-killer Pat Burrell, who’d already brought his career HR total against NY to 30 with a solo shot off Shingo Takatsu in the 7th.
Hernandez induced Burrell to hit a checked swing tapper back to the mound…and suddenly the Mets are tied with the Marlins in the loss column, just a half game out of 3rd place. After an early September drought that effectively killed the Mets’ playoff chances, they’ve won 6 of their last 7 against the same NL East teams chasing the Astros.
Not only did the Jets come out on the short end of yesterday’s Battle Of The Marshall QB’s, New York’s playoff hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow as the New York Times’ Karen Crouse explains.
The Jets’ worst fears were realized Monday when they learned that Chad Pennington tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder during Sunday’s 26-20 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars – the same injury that sidelined him for three games last year – and would be lost for the season.
A person within the N.F.L. said that a magnetic resonance imaging exam taken Monday had revealed the extent of Pennington’s injury. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Jets had not publicly announced the injury.
Even before the extent of Pennington’s injury was disclosed on Monday, Coach Herman Edwards was acting like someone who knew that he had lost his best quarterback. He announced that Brooks Bollinger, the third-string quarterback, would make his first N.F.L. start, at Baltimore on Sunday.
New England will pay a heavy toll after their last second win over Pittsburgh yesterday ; safety Rodney Harrison (above) is done for the season after tearing his left ACL.
Don Adams, best known for his work as bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in television’s “Get Smart” (1965-1970) has passed away at the age of 82.
Adams also appeared briefly in the worst syndicated comedy ever to be produced by a company with no ties to Howard Stern, the supermarket howler “Check It Out”.
With a handful of exceptions, kickers don’t receive much respect — and if you’ve ever seen Garo Yepremian attempting a forward pass (or making a cameo on “The Odd Couple”), you might know why. But in the aftermath of the Eagles’ narrow win over the penalty-plagued Raiders yesterday, David Ackers’ understudy paid him a huge compliment. Though it would’ve meant more coming from a non-kicker.
From the Philadelphia Daily News’ Sam Donnellon :
He has argued for years that he is an athlete by nature, kicker by trade. And it’s not that he wasn’t believed. It’s just when a guy speaks eye-to-eye to you in a locker room full of stadium-sized football players, in a locker room full of discolored limbs, of braces, of casts and tape – well, it’s like, “Yeah sure.”
“They call him a kicker, but he’s not a kicker,” Mike Bartrum, his kickoff replacement, was saying after Akers winced the Eagles to a 23-20 victory over the Raiders with a 23-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the game. “He’s a football player.”
“A tough guy,” Bartrum also said, a description that echoed throughout a locker room more relieved than celebratory.
The gratitude shown to Akers was in stark contrast to the treatment of Cowboys kicker Jose Cortez, as noted at Cowboys.com.
When Jose Cortez missed his first extra point attempt thanks to Jon Condo’s snap bouncing in to holder Tony Romo, Larry Allen not only got in Cortez’s face, but he yanked off his helmet and shoved the kicker – all causing Fox sideline reporter Tony Siragusa to say something to the effect of, “Either Cortez knew it wasn’t his fault or he’s stupid for not running away from Larry Allen.”
All is well that ends well, but Cortez said he’s never had a teammate come at him like that after a missed kick, although some observers thought Cortez might have said something to Condo for the low snap.
The day after being done in by the arm of Michael Vick, the Bills announced that Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes is done for ’05 after tearing the achilles tendon in his right leg yesterday.
As glitzy as the Bengals’ bandwagon truly is, I’ve got to fall in line behind the Miami Herald’s Edwin Pope, who makes Alex Moreno’s Monday morning by confirming what anyone who watched yesterday’s Fins/Panthers thriller surely knows — the Dolphins have turned it around and are the early surprise of the new season.
Understand, the Broncos and Panthers are good football teams. And that 27-24 thing that Olindo Mare’s 32-yard field goal (above) created Sunday against the Panthers meant the Dolphins have beaten the Broncos and Panthers, and what happened to them in Jets country could have happened to anybody. And will.
Jason Taylor has never been less than great. Now he’s got Truck Traylor and Kevin Carter in there jamming up things along with him, and Zach Thomas hasn’t lost a step behind them, and Junior Seau will be back slamming away in a couple of weeks, when the Dolphins play again, at Buffalo, and Channing Crowder is bringing some serious sock along with the old guys.
Testimonial matches aren’t a practice in the NHL, I don’t think, and perhaps this isn’t a great time to advocate such a thing in the wake of the last work stoppage. But spare a thought for Rangers’ goaltender Dan Blackburn, thought by many to be Mike Richter’s heir appararent between the pipes, who yesterday announced his retirement at the ripe old age of 22.
From Surfin’ Bird Phil Mushnick in Monday’s New York Post :
CBS’s Brent Jones, who worked Jags-Jets yesterday, is typical of network analysts/gasbags who parachute in to call a Jet or Giant game, then tell people who know better what’s going on.
In the first quarter, Jones (above) declared, “I can’t believe the Jets let Lamont Jordan get away … let him walk, to the Raiders.” What were they to do, bro, pay him huge money to continue as Curtis Martin’s backup ” provided he wanted to continue as a backup?
Throughout the second half, Jones reminded us, often in vague terms, “what I said, last week” about the Jags. But that meant nothing to a New York audience that last week didn’t hear him call the Jags-Colts game.